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Shots can be compromised by the mikes and the shadows they throw over the performers like this shot of GANGgajang.
Note that the guitarist on the right is in the dark, the shadow of a mike is across two of the other faces and the fifth member, the drummer is hidden altogether. Basically this is “a snap”, just an unusable shot, taken with the wrong lens from the wrong position under tough lighting conditions for this sort of photo.
On the other hand, have a squiz at this shot of ZZ Top .. two rather bizarre rock stars with beards as their trademark – their stage persona is of lecherous motorheads …
Fun to shoot, and one of my favourite bands. A trio. However, the beards are a challenge – you need sensors with great dynamic range, as you are shooting into a white bearded face on black suited men; the same challenge as shooting a bride in white and groom in black … the strobes are in my eyes from the back of the stage .. the mikes are housed in car mufflers, so they occupy an intrusive obastacle and generate their own reflections and shadows .. and the drummer is sitting in the middle of a car wreck, exhaust pipes, mag wheels, engine pistons, chrome grills, suspension springs and motor parts some 10 metres behind the two beards.
EXIF info : Nikon D700, f/2.8 24-700mm at 36mm, ISO 2500, 1/2000 sec (yes, 1/2000 sec).
Bands are always on the look out for good “action band shots” .. and that’s because they are so hard to get.
Alternatively, you can make a collage like I have done with this poster of local musician, Steve Edmonds for The Hornsby Inn.
In order to get the people at a decent size compared to the size of the image, they need to be close together. You can also deliberately look for the angle which will enable you to get the whole band in the shot – but you will have to patient to get a shot that might enable you to produce a CD Jewel Box insert like this one for BackBeat.
Here’s the poster …
.. and here’s the CD Jewel Box sleeve I designed for BackBeat …
Even here, there are compromises, as it is an action not a posed shot.
So may “band shots” have compromises relating to composition, backs being turned, shadows, image blowouts or whatever.
Drummers – a word about them. To freeze a wild drummer, you need to get to 1/300th of a second. Rather than having a stab, it helps if you know the music and when things are likely to happen. Best is to wait until the end, for the final big chord, wait for the arms to be raised as they will usually stop for a split second, your moment to strike ! Here are two examples …
- Paul Wheeler, drummer with Icehouse since 1986, more than 25 years is a spectacular drummer to watch – if you remember Keith Moon from The Who, you will know what I mean. I saw him playing with The Christina Crofts Band down the South Coast at Towradgi Beach. On stage, Paul Wheeler does everything other than kick his drum set to smithereens – he is just a talented showman and a great percussionist, no doubt about that. I had seen him several times with Icehouse, so I know if he is enjoying himself, he will often stand up behind his drumset for that last crash of the set and cymbals … here he is, with a great back drop caught at f/2.8 1/200 sec ISO 2000 on the Nikon D700 with a Nikon 24-70mm lens @56mm
… and here’s Osibisa… picking up the great lights to advantage as well as freezing the drummer ..
Of course, photographing a black man or woman has it’s own challenges … particularly in the dark … here’s the aboriginal Gurrumul who is blind, left handed and plays the guitar upside down – knowing these things before you go in the pit is helpful in deciding where to stand.
In these two cases I wanted to use the strobing coloured lights to give an accent to a blind, black man with a beautiful voice singing and playing with The Saltwater Band in the dark to an enlightened audience, co I composed the shots deliberately with that in mind.
I recommend the larger 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for these deeper shots. If you have a crop camera, then the 18-200mm will do the job as long as you can freeze the drummer with the f/3.5-5.6 lens in low lights – not so easy as the minimum aperture soon closes down to f/5.6 long before you get to the 200mm end of the zoom.
Somebody once defined a portrait to me as “a picture of a person depicting that person”. I think that is right. That is what I want … images that tell you about and depict the person. Below is a shot of Doc Neeson (backed by the great InterStellar Band)- it’s all in his creepy presentation and the hands, those hands … hands in the air, hands in praise, hands in surrender, hands across the skies, hands on the ceiling … it’s all in the hands …Gurrumul & The Saltwater Band
That is what I am after. Not just a shot of Doc Neeson singing. He portrays himself in stage persona as a rather confronting, bizarre sort of spooky, decadent character who sings with his hands, dressed menacingly in a long black coat and seemingly always strangling his scarf. So, when I went to see him, that was what I was after. It meant that I sat out a few songs when he was sort of “straight” I waited – I wanted images that depicted the persona, that is put him into context, catching him doing what he does, so that it exposes typicality.
In my case, I stumbled on this work or is it play – serendipity. I now do it by choice. I love it. Gets me into to see shows I never dreamed of seeing right up close. I am doing what I want – I am creating something of value evidently – I am getting some self development – I am having a good time.
I am not interested in shooting fine art for arts sake – I enjoy messing with computers and software. I intend to continue to build this all into a reputable online magazine – you know, making images of people depicting them in making music, including the grunt as well as the beautiful.
This is generic stuff but perhaps worth repeating because some of it is easy to forget :-
- get a good hold on the lens and camera, yes “get a grip”, it’s an instrument not a flag nor a hamburger
- hold the lens as well as the camera
- carry the weight of the whole caboodle by cradling the lens in your left hand (if you are right handed)
- rule 101 – keep the camera still
- lock it into your face
- use your head instead of a tripod – you knew your head was useful didn’t you – you can’t easily take a tripod where you are going
- squeeze your elbows into the chest
- wait for the moment – patience
- frame the picture you want … shoot with the intention not to crop later
Look at this guy, got the camera right in the face, holding the lens, elbows in … shooting a few nice Fender Strats on show at Pro Guitar and Sound.
- press the shutter button slowly, don’t “snap” it or jerk the camera
- wait for the singer to pull back from the mike at the end of each line
- check to see whether the singer is left or right handed – because you don’t want his hand in front of his face all the time
- even in “3 songs no flash” situations, I often spend the half of the first song watching what is going on, understanding what is happening with the lights and getting into position
- when all the photographers run to the right, go to the left, as the performers who charge around standing on the amps, strutting up and down, will always come back to make sure the audience gets the same treatment both sides.